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I’ve served as an usher at my church for two years ever since the previous ministry I was in merged with the usher team. So now on ever third Sunday, I get to welcome and greet people at the door and show them to their seats. When you are an usher, you really meet all sorts of people. Most are nice, polite and warm but there are some really difficult ones. It wakes me up to the sobering truth that the church is really for imperfect and broken people like you and I.
I’ve also greeted and welcomed many LGBTs into my church and I always marvel at their courage to step into a place where most people think would be hostile towards them. To me it simply shows that they love God more than the pain or fear of being rejected. And I thought their just being there is already a testimony. When many would walk past me without even a glance of acknowledgement to my greeting, they are the ones who made eye contact and returned my smile.
So when I read this from Seth’s blog this morning, I just have to share it.
To all my LGBT friends and family, I am sorry we did not love you more.
Greetings to all my beloved fans! (i like to think that I have fans)
I am sorry I have not written for a while. Not that I have not been thinking about anything but just that I didn’t feel the flow to write, if you know what I mean. I have this bag of thoughts about various issues but they were very scattered and I didn’t feel up to task stringing them all together so that they make sense. I have been slacking a great deal lately, I know. And it doesn’t help that a friend recently introduced Korean drama to me. I tell you…in the past I would never be caught dead watching Korean drama, yet here I am – guilty as charged! But then again, I was a fan of Sylvester Sim before, so expect the unexpected! “Ahhh….how could you be a fan of Sly?? It’s so unlike you!” Hehe…I know I know, don’t have to remind me. So I have been watching Boys Over Flowers and I think I am in love all over again. Ji Hoo!!!….ahhh…you’re sO cUtE!! <in typical teenager’s shriek> For some reason, I have a soft spot for guys who are musicians and has a melancholic air. Hee.. Okay I better stop before I get dizzy and bore you to death.
Now back to the reason for this post. Just like many in Singapore who were caught up with the AWARE incident last month, I have much to say. Recently someone from a blog I have been following wrote about the subject and I found that it reflected very much my own views about the issue. So I am going to cut corners (no doubt disappointing some of you who wanted to hear my own voice about this) and direct you to that blog. I assure you, it is pretty close in terms of views, as it is to mine. She said it so much more eloquently, so why not? I am good at making excuses for my laziness. It is important to remember here that we and our views about issues change as we grow in understanding and grace.
In the beginning I had refrain from commenting about the issue because I had not been following its development consistently. I didn’t feel qualified to say anything about something I did not have a complete picture on. My lack of response disappointed my lesbian friend. I realized it gave her the impression that I was indifferent to an issue very close to her heart and that was as good as saying “I don’t really care about you”. That was certainly not the message I wanted to send, especially so when the offending party in this saga are Christians. The reason why I decided I should spend some time finding out more about the story and give an informed response was first and foremost to let my friend know that if something is that important to her, then it is important to me as well. That is of more importance to me than trying to salvage the image of Christianity from a group of loud and aggressive Christian conservatives. Christianity suffers from an image problem due to the foolishness of some of it’s adherants but the true message of Jesus Christ will survive all that. I made peace with my friend but there was so much more left to be said and I would like to share it here (through the voice of another).
The writer is someone I respect very much for her fair and balanced take on many issues that are of particular interest to Christians. I found her blog by chance more than a year ago. I do not know her personally but I found out later that she attends the same church as mine, although it is not her own home church. Another person I would like to recommend is Korean-born, American pastor, Eugene Cho (err…he was before my infatuation with Korean drama). I am sure you all know him by now as I quote him regularly on my blog. He always leaves you something to chew on.
So here they are.
I just want to say that I am shocked and saddened by Heath Ledger’s sudden death, although I am not a fan and have not watched that many of his films (I did watch Brokeback Mountain). He has always kept a low profile which makes the news even more shocking. He died at such a young age; at his prime and I believe the future holds so much more for him as an actor. It’s even more heartbreaking to know that he has left behind his daughter whom he adores. I read about his depression after his split with his fiance and how he longs to see more of his daughter. It’s just depressing news. He was such a fine actor. I was moved by his potrayal of Ennis in Brokeback. Which is why I was outraged and disgusted when I read that a certain fundamentalist christian group is planning to stage a protest at his memorial and funeral. All because he took on a gay role in the film. This must be one of the most hateful thing to do to anyone. A funeral is not a place for you to push your agenda. I don’t care if a person is gay or played gay, everyone deserves a dignified funeral.
Wanna hear what a gay man living with AIDS in Los Angeles has to say about the Bible? Then, hop on to Bible Versus. I was introduced to it by no other than my favorite rlp. Hugh Elliot has been a cyber friend of rlp since his early days with Real Live Preacher. A gay man and a Southern Baptist, Texas preacher – you might think that make an unlikely friendship but surprise surprise!! Anyway, one day Hugh decided to check out the New Testament and Psalms for himself after watching rlp’s “How To Read The Bible” series which I have yet to watch, and blog his way through it. I know this one’s gonna be interesting and I wasn’t disappointed. Hugh described Bible Versus as a sometimes humorous, spontaneous, honest but always reverent view of God, religion and the New Testament. True enough, it is as he said. I enjoyed it tremendously and I hope you will too.
I never thought I’d write again anytime soon but after Borrowed Time, how could I not? As far as I am concern it is one of the most beautiful love story I’ve ever read, heartbreaking as it is. There isn’t that many book that leaves a lasting imprint in my heart and mind to the point that it alters forever the way I perceive things. And I am writing here to say that Monette’s account of the last 19, AIDS-wrecked months of his gay lover has burned out of me a deep respect for the gay community, not just any gay community but those who are faithful and committed to their partner. “Is the love between gay couples of any less value than those of their straight counterpart? Are they any less real?” my lesbian friend asked.
The tenderness and consistency in which Monette cared for his sick lover, even in the midst of his own fear, denial and fatigue will put many of us to shame. The fevers, the IV drips, the mountains of medication, the endless trips to the hospital, the gradual loss of basic function, the roller-coaster ride of hope and despair and the hatred and ignorance they had to endure and finally the moaning….oh the moaning – “the saddest, hollowest sound I’ve ever heard, loud like the trumpet note of a wounded animal” as Monette puts it. Even in the midst of these, there was the poetry, plato, the gardenias, the evening walks and the simple cuddling of each other, binding them together in a place where no sorrow could touch. It is impossible not to be affected; to read and not weep. Towards the end of the book, when Al, Roger’s father, walked into the hospital room grievously aware that the end is near for his son, gripped Monette by his shoulders and declared, voice breaking, “This boy took care of him like a mother”, as if to thank him for the 12 long years with which he had loved his son. The father who could not look Monette in the eye for a whole year when his son first broke the news that he was gay, was at the end overwhelmed with gratitude for the love and self-sacrificial way this young man had cared for his son. I do not doubt for a moment that Roger’s parents finally realize that their son was so blessed to have Paul as his best friend and lover.
If anything, this experience – I call it an experience because you can never read it without entering and partaking in the tragedy and beauty of it – has humbled me. Now I look back with regret at some of the ways I used to think of gay relationships. We who are one the other side of the fence are often quick to draw our own conclusions on things we have little personal experience or knowledge about. Worst still, sometimes we talk as if we know it all or we dismiss the other’s feelings as though it didn’t matter, all because we fail to put ourselves in their shoes and for once try to understand things from their side. You can see this disease manifesting it’s symptoms everywhere. Ever heard from friends who seems to know how to handle your children better than you do and made you feel so incompetent? Or your happily single friend who can’t for the life of her understand what’s the big deal about going to the movies alone?
If we had laid aside our “opinions” and instead, know them for who they are and not what we want them to be, we’d find that a lot of these people are not very different from us. They long for the same sense of belonging and security that committed love brings the same way we do. There are still many things I don’t understand, but one thing I can’t deny is that the love between same sex partners is as equally valid and beautiful as any other monogamous relationship and they certainly deserve our respect. We don’t have to figure it all out before we accept someone. Love them first and the understanding will follow. Isn’t this the way in which we first know God? We came to Him by faith even as we were trying to figure out the Bible and discovered that understanding flows easier after that. Knowing a person’s heart opens the doort for us to know their ways. Speaking of God, some of you may ask, “So what would Jesus think of Roger and Paul?” Well, He did say, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lays down his life for his friends.” And I’ve just finished reading an excellent example of it.
Monette’s jarring narrative of living on borrowed time transcends one man, one gay couple or the gay community. As one reviewer said, we enter the universal arena of human loss.
It is at it’s core the purest poetry.
“…we held each other as the machine answered the phone. After the beep, a voice said: “This is UCLA Medical Center calling. Mr. Roger Horwitz died at 5:42am this morning, October twenty-second.” Bernice and I hugged each other briefly, without a word, and I swam back to bed for the end of the night…………putting off as long as I could the desolate waking to life alone – this calamity that is all mine, that will not end till I do.” – Borrowed Time
Paul Monette is a part of the first generation to suffer from AIDS Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. His friend, Roger Horwitz, died after a long battle with the virus. Monette gave his courage, strength, and love as he helped his friend fight this battle. Borrowed Time is the story of the AIDS roller coaster. It was nominated for National Book Critic’s Circle Award 1988 for best biography and Winner of the 1989 Pen West USA Literary Award For Best Nonfiction.
It’s that time of the year again for reflection and thanksgiving for everything that have made an impact in my life this year as the year draws to a close.
It has been a year of discovery for me. God has revealed certain things about myself and others and what it means to keep trusting Him regardless of what I discover. As a result I discovered a little more of God that I have not known through experience. If last year I was on an extraordinary high, this year is then, a year where the bubbles on the champagne are slowly settling and I find myself trying to live out the ordinary life with faith. A wise man once said, “Never make a decision when you’re high in the sky or down in the dumps”. For me it would be more befitting to say, “Never decide if something is of God’s will when you’re high in the sky or down in the dumps”. Don’t presume to know God’s will too quickly. But as always, I will continue to believe that “……EVERYTHING work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose”.
Here’s my list for 2005
Music/Songs Of The Year…..
You Raise Me Up – Selah
It expresses beautifully of how God has been and still is the pillar of my strength and hope.
Imagine Me Without You – Jaci Velasquez
The words say it all. “…..because of You, my life is now worthwhile”
Others worth mentioning
Once Again – Matt Redman/ Home – Michael Blube/ Fairytale – Guang Liang/ and several Jay Chou numbers
Films Of The Year…..
(incidentally, both carry a picture of redemption)
You may read my review here.
Narnia: Lion, Witch and Wardrobe
A remarkable Christian allegory that can be understood and appreciated by the young and old alike.
Books Of The Year…..
The Journey of Desire – John Eldredge
I am just as inspired and moved as I was with his other work, which were also in my list for last year’s Books of The Year. Read my review here.
It was gift from a friend and one which I’ve always wanted to read cos it’s by one of my favorite writer and blogger, rlp. It’s a collection of short essays. Simple and honest, yet profound. Spiritual but not religious. You’ll love it.
Women Who Love Too Much
It came as a ray of light in the middle of a battle that was plunging deeper into darkness. Though some parts of it were painful to read, it has provided clarity to some confusion and awaken me to a healthier way of loving.
Events Of The Year…..
His conversion came as a big surprise. Unfortunately after several months of spiritual high, he seem to have withdrawn. I am in no position to judge what went wrong or if he has indeed given up. If he really has, I’d think that’s because he has not really known Jesus, because once you do, you’ll never leave. Starting a race is easier than finishing it. I hope he will finish the race. As for me, there is no turning back.
Encounters with SSA (same-sex-attraction)
One thing that stands out clearly this year is the many encounters I’ve had with SSA. God has brought numerous people across my path who are dealing with SSA. Some are already in a relationship while some are still trying to fight it. Getting to know them better has given me a better understanding. Whatever our stand is on this, I’d say there is one response I know God will always approve – love them. Loving takes precedence over judgment. It does not mean approval but it will help us see them the way God sees them.
People Of The Year…..
The life and death of this little girl as told by her mother in a letter shortly after her death has been an inspiration to me. Even terminal disease cannot conceal the glory of God, as demonstrated through the childlike faith of this young girl.
It is predominantly through Steve that I’ve had a good look into the heart and mind of someone struggling with SSA. His honesty and transparency opened doors to dialogue motivated by love and not condemnation. He has not merely given me a better understanding of his struggle but also helped me see these people as real people with dreams, fears and needs just like all of us. He does not conceal his failures and weaknesses and is willing to make himself vulnerable. It has been a great blessing indeed to have crossed path with him through his journal.
You may read about how she has touched my life here.
If I were to write about how much she means to me and the way she has affected my life, it would fill pages and pages. No sensible blogger would do that. There are certain things meant to be written and treasured in our heart alone.
Sermons Of The Year…..
The life and death of Ashlee
Although I have never met Ashlee, the story of her life makes for one great sermon this year. Here is one of the most memorable part (written in the words of her mother);
“It must have been scary for you to loose your functions slowly. Why is it that you were never angry or upset? How can you fervently believe in the infinite goodness of a God you have never met even when you can’t do all the things you have always loved anymore?
Mummy can guess why.
Because you didn’t have to see God to believe. Because you know that God loves you much much more than anyone can ever love you. Because you understood that there is nothing much to fret about if we keep our eyes on Jesus. Because you have an indomitable spirit, sustained by your unequivocal belief that your Creator is good and will only want the best plan for you. Because you know that a short life does not equate a lesser one, if one chooses to live it fully and embrace all that it has to offer. Because you are an angel and has come to touch us with your amazing grace and teach us about God’s love, that we should love because He first loved us.”
Steve’s story is to me, a sermon on preserverence and hope. The way he kept holding on to the last thread of hope, God himself, in the midst of his struggles is a great encouragement. As you read his blog, you’ll see times when he is at the brink of giving up. Some of his entries are filled with lamentations. But if you’re patient enough to follow him in his journey, you’ll find him slowly and painfully crawling back to his Savior, grabbing and holding on to the faintest of light that he sees in the darkness of his aching heart. Steven, this race will not last forever. Hope to see you there when it’s all over. A big feast awaits us.
Blog Of The Year…..
This is one blog that never fails to keep me entertained. Whether I’m feeling depressed, happy or just plain bored, I’m sure to get something out of it somehow.
Lesson of The Year…..
Never decide if something is of God’s will when we’re high in the sky or down in the dumps. There are many routes God can use to accomplish his purpose. Trust him to use whichever he thinks is best. Do not be quick to judge if the route you’re on is in line with His will. None of us wants to end up on the wrong side of the road but we still do sometimes, knowingly or not. But God allows U-turn. Trust Him to lead you out. I don’t know about you but most of the time, if not all, I really DO NOT know if I’m on the right track. Only when we know exactly where our destination is, it’s quite impossible to know if we’re going the right way. All I know is that whatever or wherever God is leading us to, it’ll be good. That’s about all I know. Although that’s not gonna help with the direction, at least I’ll know whatever happens, in the end I’ll end up somewhere good because Jesus knows both the destination and the best way to get there. Best does not always mean quick and easy. That, we all know by now. What then? I’d say follow the best we can and trust the Holy Spirit to do His job.
Videoblog and Audioblog
They add variety to my blog.
“There is something divine in deep friendship between men (as in deep friendship between women) that the other sex cannot fully understand or know, a love that can be passionate but not sexual, similar to brotherly or fatherly bond but different. It’s a unique relationship, something sacred. The relationship between David and Jonathan in the Bible is an articulate example of this type of brother-love friendship.” – The Wicker Chronicles
The story of David and Jonathan – I have wanted to write about it for the longest time because I think it’s speaks of our own longing for intimate friendship. It was a few years ago when I first heard my pastor preached on it. I marveled at the friendship between them. Sacred – is indeed an accurate word. Pastor showed us how this story of intimate friendship reveals Jesus as our covenant friend. It was fascinating to say the least. I was both captivated and intrigued.
I am moved by Jonathan’s unfailing devotion and loyalty to David. He faced a loyalty dilemma with his father, who grew insanely jealous of his son’s friendship with David. Insecure and guilt-ridden over past misdeeds, Saul feared that young David would take away his crown. Although Jonathan tried to stay loyal to both father and friend, his father made it impossible. Soon Jonathan would realize that Saul would kill David if he caught him. Once, in a blind rage, Saul hurled a spear at his own son for standing up for David. As Saul’s son, he stood next in line for the throne. By siding with David, he would ultimately harm himself. Even so, at the risk of his own neck, Jonathan chose to help David escape. He told David he would happily follow his friend as his number-two man. Tragically, the two friends never got the chance to rule together. In a battle against the Philistines, Jonathan fought at his father’s side and was killed. David, mourning his dearest friend, sang a poignant song in tribute. Their loyalty and love make for one of the most beautiful stories of friendship ever told.
“…How the mighty have fallen in battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your heights
I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother
You were very dear to me
Your love for me was wonderful
More wonderful than that of women…”
It has never crossed my mind to question the purity of their friendship. When I first heard or read those accusations, I was both surprised and disturbed. It felt almost like an Adam and Eve moment, when the serpent planted a doubt in them regarding God’s goodness. Isn’t it possible that God is withholding something good from you? Isn’t it possible that what David and Jonathan shared was more than just friendship? Could theirs have been a homosexual relationship? Granted, it wasn’t like any other kind of friendship that we encounter these days. It was something much deeper. But that does not mean it has to be something sexual. So the question now is, are such friendships possible without turning sexual? I believe it is. Although David and Jonathan had a very special bond (they are covenant friends mind you), there is nothing in the Bible that suggests they could be sexually involved with each other. I suspect those who believe otherwise could have missed the context of the story and lack an understanding of covenant relationships. And for the same reason – and also because I do not wish to turn this into some sort of Bible study – I won’t quote verses out of its context here. But you may read the full story for yourself in the first and second book of Samuel in the Bible, particularly 1 Samuel 18-20 and 2 Samuel 1. Perhaps much of it depends on how we interpret inward or outward show of affection in close friendship between the same sexes. Wicker rightly observes,
“Quickly, close friendships between men become suspect, as if men are incapable of supporting friendships with any emotional depth, intimacy or honesty without the relationship becoming sexual. The story of David and Jonathan in the Bible becomes distorted through this lens. Any male closeness is labeled as a sign of homosexuality by the traditional culture and the gay movement. One side is overeager to keep men from “becoming” gay by stopping any “inappropriate” inward or outward show of emotion or affection, and the other is overeager to prove that gay men are everywhere, under every rock and bush. Men who are biologically straight, yet are naturally inclined toward close friendships with other men, are forced to choose: enforce rigid, quasi-Victorian/Puritanical boundaries of emotional distance, or admit to themselves that they are gay or bisexual *only* because they crave the company of other men. This is a great disservice to the entire society. All men should feel free, gay or straight, to enter into friendships with other men that are not pre-judged and pre-determined by hypersexualized, distorted gender stereotypes.”
I believe the David and Jonathan friendship is the sort of friendship God wishes for all of us. Unfortunately some have distorted it – either by pushing the boundaries of such friendship beyond its healthy limits or by pre-judging those who are capable of holding them, by their own perverted thoughts. An important factor that has led to this distortion, I believe, is that we are often confused about our feelings and desires – why we feel a certain way and what they reveal about us? I do not know if many of us ask ourselves these questions or do we just presume someone must be gay or lesbian if they have such feelings. I find the work of John Eldredge particularly helpful in turning our feelings and desires into pathways of understanding our heart. Of course there could be a myriad of other reasons why we could be vulnerable to same-sex attraction. But I have observed and I find true to my own experience that we do not have to act on our feelings and desires if we are not sure what they mean or know that they are contrary to God’s ways. We can’t control how we feel but we can choose not to act on it. It’s not going to be easy but I know it is a wiser choice.